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Local districts receive late water supply notice

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Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013 12:00 am

A good water year for the East Bay Municipal Utility District does not always translate to a good water year for the local districts relying on their flows to serve customers.

Enough snowmelt running down from the Sierra Nevada mountains will fill up the district's reservoirs to meet this summer's demands and start the next rainy season with ample storage, according to EBMUD spokesperson Charles Hardy. That's 440,000 acre-feet to last the summer.

September will end with 535,000 acre-feet in storage. It's below the district's target of 600,000 acre-feet, but above the 500,000 acre-feet level that triggers water shortage concerns.

So EBMUD customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties are set.

But what about the water districts relying on EBMUD to send thousands of acre-feet down the Mokelumne Rive for farmers in the Delta and the San Joaquin Valley to irrigate their crops in the dry summer heat?

Nearing the end of April, leaders of the Woodbridge Irrigation District don't know if they'll have all the water they need for their customers. And the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District, as a junior water rights holder, is getting no water this year, Hardy confirmed.

But the NSJWCD board didn't know.

"We have not heard anything from them," said Joe Valente, president of the NSJWCD. The board sent in their annual letter requesting water by Feb. 15, and usually hear back by mid-April.

"When (EMBUD) is not sure, they extend it," he said. "We're last on the totem pole."

No growers have called in with questions, Valente said. They've seen years like this before, with very little rainfall since January.

"They understand, too," he said.

The district is still struggling financially and looking for projects to bring in some money. Without the 20,000 acre-feet they have a right to in wet years, there's no way to get customers, said Valente.

Andy Christensen, general manager of Woodbridge Irrigation District, said his district got their springtime letter outlining the conditions of their water rights, but it didn't say whether there would be water for them or not this year.

"It did say we are having the driest January through April period in 83 years," he said. "But it doesn't come to any conclusions."

Based on projections for 2013, WID will likely get its annual 60,000 acre-feet.

But a final check to Pardee Reservoir on July 3 could mean a cut.

If the inflow to Pardee drops below 375,000 acre-feet, WID's water allowance drops to 39,000.

"The assumption is we'll have enough to get there," Hardy said.

WID customers and most California growers are used to the idea that three years of every 21 are dry. But many more come very close to that "dry year" level, so Christensen considers every year a dry year for planning purposes.

"This is a desert climate. We run really close to those numbers all the time," he said. "I think we have to wait a little longer before we break out the champagne and celebrate."

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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